Monday, February 26, 2018

Some of the tastes and culture of PyeongChang

One of the really cool things that they have done here at these Olympics that I have never seen done before, is they are offering free tours to the media. These tours are not sport related, but opportunities for us to see the surrounding area and learn about the Korean culture.

About a week ago, I signed up for a tour of PyeongChang. I wanted to see something other than the Olympic grounds and thought that all of you would appreciate a taste of the Korean culture as well.

Our first stop was at the Jeonggangwon which is a Korean Traditional Food Culture Center.

It was here that they showed us how they make their Gochujang, which is the red paste that they use in so much of their food. The paste is fermented for many months in these containers.

Then the paste is made into these bricks and hung for months more.

They demonstrated how they make their sticky rice, by mixing it together...

...and then pounding it into a sticky bundle. We all took turns pounding the rice until it was the right consistency.

Then we cut the rice into squares and coated them with this sweet powder. We all tried this and it was quite good.

The ladies mixed many vegetables and meat to make the Bibimbap.

Then we were treated to a traditional Korean lunch, which of course included Kimchi (which I love).

After lunch we visited the Woljeongsa Temple which is the home of many Buddhist monks.

Whenever I am in Asia, I always am enamored with the colors in the buildings.

We walked through, what they call the "Green Shower". This is a nice walk through the fir trees where they say it cleanses your body and soul. It was quite cold, so it also woke us up after our lunch.

I saw this frozen river and just had to take a photo of this. I had to walk up the frozen river a little bit to get this shot and our tour leader was a bit skeptical that I would come back in one piece.

After walking for 20 minutes, we came to the Temple grounds.

I saw these people resting and thought that all of us on the tour could all be doing that. :)

We took our shoes off and entered this beautiful room.

In Korea, it is customary to bow three times when entering a room with Buddha, so we each did this, and then walked around to admire the artwork.

I had fun shooting photos from different angles...

... and I loved the dragon that was on the ceiling.

After walking around and exploring the different buildings, we were invited to have tea with one of the monks that lives on the property.

We went in and sat down on mats which had been placed on the ground for us. And they had some sweet rice balls and tea for us.

While sipping tea, the monk told us about their temple, their rituals and their way of life. And then we could ask him any questions we wanted. After about 30 minutes, he encouraged all of us to meditate with him for just 5 minutes. He asked us to try and forget about the Olympics and the stress that we were returning to, and to just think about our breathing and nothing more. This was not easy! But even I managed to relax a little and almost fell asleep during that short amount of time. And I was not the only one. We were all exhausted.

After having tea with the monk, we started to head back through the temple area.

I asked one of the other people on the tour if they could take a photo of me. After teaching him how to back-button focus, he was nice enough to get a photo of me.

But this guy looks a lot better than me, so I thought I would end with this photo.

The tour lasted from 9:30am until 4:30pm and was a nice break from the normal Olympic pace. But I have to admit that, when we returned, it was not more than 30 minutes before I grabbed all my big camera gear and headed off to shoot another sport. I guess for me, photography is how I feed my soul.

Right before the end of the Olympics, I also took a tour of the DMZ. That blog is coming soon. But for now, I need to pack all my clothes and gear, since I am HEADING HOME tomorrow afternoon.

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